Civil Society groups urge AU to act on Sudan's Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile crisis

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - On the eve of the 20th African Union (AU) Assembly, a coalition of over 350 civil society organisations from Sudan, South Sudan and across Africa has appealed to African leaders  to do all that is possible to end the violence and restore peace to the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan

Meeting here Wednesday, the coalition said the war that has raged between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) for over 18 months cannot be allowed to claim more lives and endanger the chances of peace in the wider region.

"The time for resolute action and strong leadership is now," a statement issued from the meeting said, noting that nearly one million people were already affected and the situation was getting worse as both parties launch new dry season offensives.

"Intense and indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces is terrorising communities, killing and maiming on a daily basis.

"The conflict is a scar on Africa, made worse by the fact that it bears many of the hallmarks of the state-sponsored violence inflicted on the Nuba people in the 1990s. It is a cycle of violence that only our African leaders can, and must, now break," it said.

Reports from the two areas confirm that the humanitarian situation is verging on catastrophe while experts warn that a man-made famine looms.

An estimated 700,000 people in the SPLM-N-controlled areas, mainly women, children and the elderly, have little or no access to food, water, sanitation or healthcare, according to the reports.

The civil societies coalition pointed out that more than 18 months of bombing, shelling and ground attacks have meant that few have been able to grow and harvest staple crops.

To make matters worse, aid agencies have been barred from these areas, forcing many victims of the crisis to seek sustenance from wild fruits and leaves, or to eat a meal only once every five days.

"The serious health and developmental implications for the many children subjected to this level of deprivation and violence are deeply disturbing," said the coalition.  

It said unless African leaders seize the opportunity to take decisive and firm action to demand an end to the violence, a whole generation of children may be lost to war.

Meanwhile, the civil society organisations represented at the meeting on Sudan have expressed appreciation for the attempts over the last year by the AU to encourage the warring parties to resolve their differences and allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need.

But, despite these efforts and those by leaders such as former South African President Thabo Mbeki, no relief has been delivered and no guns laid down.

"More must be done to ensure there is a cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian assistance for all civilians in need, and direct talks between the two parties to peacefully resolve their long-standing grievances," said the coalition statement.

"We urge Thabo Mbeki, as the Chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (HIP), to ensure that his forthcoming report to the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) includes firm and decisive recommendations on Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

"At a minimum, both parties must be required to meet time-bound milestones and be held accountable for non-compliance," it emphasised.

The coalition of the civil society organisations urged the forthcoming AU meeting on Sudan and South Sudan on 25 January 2013 to:

- Instruct the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities and allow immediate unimpeded humanitarian access, with measures to verify compliance and consequences for non-compliance;

- Urge the Government of Sudan and SPLM-N to enter into direct political talks, based on their 28 June 2011 Framework Agreement, with time-bound milestones and consequences for non-compliance;

- Renew the mandate of the AU HIP as an independent mediator to assist the parties to peacefully resolve the conflict in the two areas, and address the root causes of the violence;

- Send a high-level delegation from the AU PSC to both sides of the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to demonstrate active engagement and enable a firsthand assessment of progress.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 23Jan2013

23 january 2013 19:49:25




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